by Dr. Lori Verderame
Toys say a lot about American culture. Toys fall into simple categories like games, construction toys or erector sets and transportation toys made by Marx, Buddy L, Wyandotte and other companies. In the early 1900s, American toy manufacturers used tin, pressed steel/metal, and cast iron for toys.
Fred Lundahl founded the Buddy L Toy Company in East Moline, Illinois and made his mark in the production of pressed steel toys. His original company, Moline Press Steel Company, got much of its work from the automotive industry stamping out fenders, door panels, and pressed steel truck parts.
Lundahl started the Buddy L toy line in 1921 after he made a dump truck toy for his son, Arthur who was known as Buddy. The dump truck toy was made from steel left over from the company scrap heap. The first Buddy L toy was a miniature truck of pressed steel based on an actual truck manufactured for International Harvester. Buddy L toys were marketed simply as “toys for boys”. The toys were first showcased at the New York Toy Show in 1922.
Made of pressed steel, prices for the toys were said to be too high even though retail giants like F.A.O. Schwarz and Marshall Field bought the toys and sold them in their stores.
Buddy L made a line of miniature sports cars, tractors, delivery vans, construction trucks, dump trucks, cement mixers, fire trucks, etc. These toys have become, nearly a century later, highly sought after in the toy collectibles market with collectors.
Lundahl sold the Buddy L Toy Company yet the firm held onto its leading role in the pressed steel toy business until World War II. The war changed everything for Buddy L. With steel unavailable for toys, wooden toys were re-introduced and then the advent of plastic toys took the place of the pressed steel toys on store shelves.
Get an online appraisal of your Buddy L piece from Dr. Lori.